Openreach targets 15m UK buildings for FTTP by mid-2020s

09 May 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Openreach, BT’s wholesale last-mile subsidiary, has expanded its targets for directly connected fibre to 15 million UK buildings by the mid-2020s.

The company, which provides fibre and copper connections to all UK telcos, is facing increasing competition from rivals. TalkTalk’s FibreNation, a CityFibre/Vodafone partnership and others are planning wholesale fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollouts.

New BT CEO Philip Jansen said: “Today we are announcing an increased target to pass 4 million premises with ultrafast FTTP technology by 2020/21, up from 3 million, and an ambition to pass 15 million premises by the mid-2020s, up from 10 million, if the conditions are right, especially the regulatory and policy enablers.”

Jansen didn’t say what he meant by “if the conditions are right”, though it is likely to be a reference to the wholesale price Openreach is able to charge operators, including BT’s own retail and enterprise units.

Openreach is wholly owned by BT, though it is now a separate company with its own board rather than a division. However the fact that the statement came from Jansen, as CEO of the UK’s incumbent, shows the power the group has over UK infrastructure.

Jansen noted: “Since joining the company three months ago, it has become clear to me just how fundamental BT’s role is in connecting our society. While we are really well positioned in a very challenging and competitive UK market, we have a lot of work to do to ensure we remain successful and deliver long term sustainable value to our shareholders.”

Clive Selley, the CEO of Openreach, welcomed the announcement. He said: “I’m delighted that our engineers are rising to the task, and that we’ve been backed by our shareholder to go even further. We now intend to reach an extra one million premises within our original timeframe, meaning four million homes and businesses will have access to a full fibre to the premises service over our network by the end of March 2021.”

He noted: “In just a year, we’ve doubled the size of our full fibre footprint, building more FTTP during 2018/19 than we had in the previous seven years combined.”

Selley also warned about regulatory conditions in the longer term. “If we’re to build to 15 million premises and beyond, we do still need the certainty of a regulatory framework which encourages investment in the long-term.”

He also criticised taxes on fibre infrastructure and complained of “a mass of red-tape and barriers which hamper our efforts to upgrade apartment blocks and new developments”.